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This week, the duo of Stephen Schleicher and Matthew Peterson crack the cover of the latest Buffy, the Vampire Slayer issue, that not only brings an end to the five issue story arc, but quite possibly the end of all those other vampire slayers as well.  Take the jump to see what our charming duo have to say about this issue in this week’s installment of Dueling Reviews.

buffy30COVER.jpgBUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER #30: RETREAT part 5 (of 5)
Jane Espenson (W)
Georges Jeanty (P/Cover), Andy Owens (I)
Michelle Madsen (C), and Adam Hughes (Cover)

Previously, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer:  When a super-secret government agency has you in it’s sights, and it has been using it’s endless resources to make sure that you and your friends are beaten bloody, held aloft and paraded before the crowd while you hear the lamentations of your women (or men, let’s not be sexist), what do you do?  If you’re Buffy Anne Summers, you gather your troops in a nuclear sub and teleport to the mountains of Tibet, and then try to make your magic go away so that the enemy can’t trace you.  Of course, this also leaves you defenseless when your enemies eventually do attack (as Buffy’s have) and your agents will be forced to go into battle and probably die (as Buffy’s have.)  Luckily for the Buffster, Willow has been able to channel the powers of several angry Tibetan goddesses to attack their enemies and even the odds…

Stephen: Unfortunately, as everyone quickly discovers those goddesses are pretty pissed off that everyone is tromping around their sacred grounds and start raining holy death down upon those underfoot.  Early on it appears as if the three higher beings are only targeting those that targeted the gaggle of girls, everyone soon discovers that it is a higher being free-for-all.  To make matters worse, the Vampire Slayers’ powers have yet to return (and probably won’t), which means it is every man, woman, child, wolf-man, vampire, flailed human, witch, and mercenary for himself or herself.

Matthew: Buffy and her fellow Slayers are not dealing well at all with having no super-human strength and speed to work with, and even though they’ve adjusted to fighting with guns and armor, they’re pretty much getting their butts handed to ’em.  This issue is the first to make me wonder about the powers of super-goon Twilight, who hasn’t actually, y’know, DONE anything for the last couple of issues.  He has exhibited Kryptonian-type powers in previous issues, I wonder if his abilities are somehow cyclical?

Stephen: Or if Twilight even has powers at all.  Heck, let me lose 100 pounds, put on a leather mask, jump around, and whisper some hypnotic suggestions into others’ ears, and I could be Buffy’s greatest foe.  Except he isn’t, and the ending of this story reinforces the fact that no one being will be the end to Buffy and her crew.  And that’s the first chink in the armor for this series for me. All this time we’ve been building, and building, and building, and have had to suffer along with Buffy as her life spirals into a depressing pool of self pity. I keep wanting more from this Twilight saga, but have yet to get true satisfaction.  At least the big bad could have whipped off his hood to reveal glittering vampire underneath or something…

Matthew: Old-school Buffy pal Oz has his own tragedy this issue, as his new wife is killed in all the fracas.  Also dead: large numbers of Slayers, the pack of werewolves who wouldn’t give up their abilities, and scores of army men.  We also find out that the wrathful deities called up by Willow and company aren’t actually under their control, and are more than willing to kill friend and foe alike.  Riley Finn is revealed to be a spy for Buffy’s group, Xander and Buffy have a moment, and Buffy steps up to show her leadership skills by gathering her remaining soldiers to evacuate the wounded on BOTH sides of the conflict.  She gets taken out by a goddess, and wakes up several hours later then, and ends the issue displaying a new trick…

Stephen: Speaking of Kryptonian powers – Buffy finds herself several hundred feet in the air survey everything around her. I don’t know if she finally took the red pill and had an epiphany, or if all that magic-stuff that the slayers, Oz’s wife, and the other had given up is finally coming back and filtering into our hero.  It is a surprise ending that does make one wonder WTF, but at the same time it feels like another gimmick being used to keep readers around for another month.

We haven’t really seen much of Oz or Riley since their departures from the show (save for an occasional guest spot here and there, or a brief stint on Angel, so getting into the whole, Oz has a pack family and has found inner peace, only to have his one true love taken away from him, falls kind of flat for me.  And for the record, I was never a big Riley Finn fan, so his return has me a bit Finn-Fan-Fumed if you want to put a name to it.

Matthew: My biggest problem with this issue, indeed, the problem that I have had with this entire ARC, is the return of the ridiculous “Willow addicted to magic” subplot from season six of the television incarnation of Buffy.  I understand what they think they’re saying about magic and absolute power corrupting blah blah blah fishcakes, but there’s a problem.  If you establish a world where a girl has super-powers, and is tasked with defending the world against evil, and that for GENERATIONS, there have been certain super-types whose very existence is predicated on magical fighty-fighty, YOU UNDERMINE YOUR WHOLE CONCEPT when you treat all magic as equivalently evil.  Put it this way…  If you are a carpenter, you have a hammer among your tools.  If you are an evil lunatic, you may use the hammer to kill innocent people.  Does it make sense to tell the carpenter that his hammer is evil?

Stephen: Everyone knows carpentry is the tool of the devil.  Have I shown you my collection of hammers, recently?  No?  Next time you come over I want to show them to you.  I keep them in a room lined with plastic garbage bags.  You may have to bend way down to get the one in the corner – no, don’t worry what I’m doing behind your back with my loving Claw-Hammer-O-Doom…

In a round about way, I agree completely with you on the argument.  Some of the best moments in the series were when Willow let fly with the black eyes, sometimes out of pure evil corrupting her, but also at times when she was so overwhelmed with anguish that it was the only solution.  By the way, readers might want to check out the Willow issue that goes on sale at the end of December, the cover alone should cause the issue to sell out, but don’t be surprised if some of these arguments aren’t addressed in some way shape or form.

Matthew: All in all, this issue acquits itself well, with Georges Jeanty doing his usual wonderful work here (especially in the design of the Tibetan goddesses) but the fact that there’s been an elephant in the room regarding magic for five issues bugs me.  I’m also a bit taken aback that this issue is marked “Conclusion,” ending as it does with a new cliffhanger.  There’s been a clear attempt to make the supporting cast more manageable before we wrap Season 8 in a few issues, which I’m okay with, but I’m still puzzled as to why Twilight doesn’t get involved in the fight.  Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Season 8 #30 earns a slightly unbalanced 3 out of 5 stars from Matthew, delivering an entertaining climax to a flawed arc, even if the issues doesn’t have nearly enough Spike and Faith in it.

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Stephen: I wasn’t really excited when this arc started, and I wish they would have found some way to wrap up the vampires are now the hip thing story leading into the flight of the slayers.   While Joss Whedon serves as the executive producer for the Buffy comic series, I’ll be curious to see how he deals with this mess in January when he pens issue #31.  Until then, Buffy the Vampire Slayer #30 earns 2.5 out of 5 Stars from me.  The good news is, I’m still on board, and Dark Horse will have my money for a while longer.

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3 Comments

  1. JB
    November 9, 2009 at 6:30 am — Reply

    I honestly don’t know what to think of this arc. Season Eight started incredibly good, and to me, Wolves at the Gate is everything a Buffy comic should be. But from the moment Harmony went public with vampirism and slayerism, it’s just felt WEIRD.

    The idea of suddenly revealing the secrets of the supernatural to the world is good, but the string of stand-alone issues was pretty bland. I remember a Major Spoilers issue (done by Stephen, if I remember it well) saying that it was the big swampy middle of the season (as Jim Butcher would say). That’s exactly how it felt, but it had somes nice moments (Andrew), and since those stories were all one-shots, it didn’t drone out.

    “Retreat” just doesn’t work for me. The dramatic moments, the humor, the characterisation…it’s all meh, nothing gets my enthusiasm-o-meter rising. It feels like a lame imitation of a Buffy story, dropping off shockers without any efficient buildup or tension. I really hope this series comes back to its former awesomeness, but for now it flies at the bottom of my radar.

    • lifeisaglitch
      November 9, 2009 at 3:20 pm — Reply

      Its awesome that i dont have to write a lengthy comment and can just agree with you.

  2. Nick
    December 15, 2009 at 5:43 pm — Reply

    i like the buffy/xander/dawn drama…Buffy’s feeling for Xander are long overdue

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